Does God Really Love Everyone?
It’s becoming increasingly common for people to ask me, “Does God really loveeveryone?” How can it be possible, it’s argued, for God to love an unrepentant and murderous criminal like Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer? After all, some ask rhetorically, isn’t there even a verse in the Bible somewhere that says that God hates not only evil deedsbut also the people who do them? (They’re referring to Psalm 5:5.)
Occasionally, someone even takes a more personal slant and says, “My children have never been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus, and I always feel guilty about telling them that God loves them; should I?” Or, “Is it right for me to tell a stranger that God loves them? I don’t know what God has in store for that person.”
Well, the answer to the question, “Does God love everyone?” is: yes … but with a caveat. (You knew there couldn’t be just a simple answer, right?)
Theologians talk about the love of God as being universal and particular. In one sense, every single created being experiences the love of God. Every living person enjoys breath, laughter, relationships, and the magnificent benefit of occupying an earth that offers sunshine, breath-taking scenery, and the beauty of changing seasons. Furthermore, every living person is extended the loving and bona fide offer to repent and be reconciled to God. These are evidences of God’s universal love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” Jesus announces. That sounds pretty inclusive, doesn’t it? The Psalmist echoes God’s magnanimity when he states: “The Lord is good to all and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Ps. 145:9).
However, there are some that God loves in a unique way. He doesn’t love these people more than everyone else, just differently. To some, God shows His love by convicting them of their sins, quickening their lifeless hearts, and bringing them to saving faith in Jesus. To some, God shows His love by miraculously transferring them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son. The Apostle Paul says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4). The evangelist John instructs: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). These are references to God’s particular love.
Biblical scholar, J.I. Packer succinctly explains the difference this way: “First, God loves all in some ways (everyone whom he creates, sinners though they are, receives many undeserved good gifts in daily providence), and, second, God loves some in all ways (that is, in addition to the gifts of daily providence he brings them to faith, to new life, and to glory, according to his predestinating purpose).”
So here’s what that means: first and foremost, you are loved by God. Regardless of where you are in life, or what you have done—even if you are not a follower of Jesus—you are the beneficiary of God’s love. And if you are a child of God, if you have put your faith in Christ, you can rest in the fact that God has lavished His particular affection on you, a love that He has moved heaven and earth to display to you.
Second, this means that to your unbelieving neighbor who’s struggling just to keep her life together, you need not have the slightest reservation about saying to her: “God loves you.” And to that young son of yours who’s going through a rebellious stage, you can still say definitively, “You are loved by God.” And the prayer that accompanies that proclamation is that God would allow these hurting souls to realize God’s universal love, and be so moved by His mercy that they run to Him in faith, and thereby bear witness to the fact that they have also been loved with God’s particular love, the only hope of salvation.
In the love of God,